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Colloquium: Putting the Electron’s Spin to Work

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Daniel Ralph, Cornell University
24 September 2015 from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
117 Osmond Laboratory
Contact Name
Nitin Samarth
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In addition to carrying a quantized electrical charge, electrons also possess a quantized angular momentum, or spin.  In ordinary charge-based electronics, the spins are usually randomly oriented and they do not play a role in device function.  However, in the last ten years there has been significant progress in new techniques to control electron spins, giving rise to the field of “spintronics”.  Spin currents can now be used, for example, to apply torques within magnetic devices that are 1000 times stronger than charge-current-generated magnetic fields.  I will discuss recent advances in understanding how spins can be controlled in particularly efficient ways using strong spin-orbit coupling in heavy metals and topological insulators, and describe progress toward applications for non-volatile magnetic memory and logic.